Friday, April 7, 2017

Breakfast with Cicero

Well once again I have been blown away by a small early morning experience at the 24th St. Café in Bakersfield California.  In a recent essay, I talked about lessons of business and life that I learned from a conversation with a funeral home director at the counter of this same restaurant ( and now I am inspired by the writings of a famous roman senator and orator from over 2000 years ago in a most unlikely setting!

Since 2009, I have had the chance to travel to Bakersfield numerous times for my work at Bolthouse Farms.  I have come to really enjoy travelling to “Bako”, with all of its quirks and charms, and have developed quite a routine when I visit.  Most mornings start early, checking in at home at 5 am pacific (8 am Atlanta time) in order to talk to Marie before she goes to school and to Jennie before her day gets going.  Finished by 5:15am, I usually hit the streets for my morning walk, cruising through the Westchester neighborhood near downtown Bakersfield with its beautiful historic homes and quiet streets.  Once back from my walk, I hit the shower, get ready for my workday and head over to the 24th St. Café for a great breakfast on the way to the plant.  Last Tuesday morning was no different, and I walked into the restaurant at 6:30 and quietly sat down at the counter.

With a fresh cup of coffee in hand, I noticed that one of the waitresses was standing on a booth in the corner, writing something up on a chalkboard.  Expecting to see the “special of the day” featured (their food is really out of this world!), I was blown away to see a quote from Cicero appear on the board (pictured above):

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.”

To say the least, that was not what I was expecting to see, early on a Tuesday morning, in Bakersfield California.  I asked the waitress what the story was about the quote and she mentioned that the owner had “sent it in” and wanted it up on the board all week.  Asking to speak to the owner, she mentioned that he should be in later in the day and came over to take my order (the Tri-Tip Omelet and sourdough toast!!)

As a historic note, the Romans believed that there were 15 common “virtues” that were part of the “Roman Way or Via Romana” that were the bedrock of what made the Roman Republic and Roman citizens unique in the world 2000 years ago.  The list includes: humor, mercy, tenacity, industriousness, truthfulness, and gratitude among others.  Cicero’s quote really got me thinking.  If “gratitude” is not only the greatest of the virtues, but also the “parent” of all the others, he must mean that you can’t really show “mercy” unless you are personally “grateful” for what you have.  In the same vein, the root of “industriousness” is to be appreciative and grateful for your own situation.  Etc., etc.  Cicero’s challenge is basically in order to be virtuous we need to be grateful!

As I headed out of the 24th St. Café that morning, the Cicero quote on gratitude really hung with me.  With so much division and challenge facing our communities/country and world, it’s hard to be “grateful” or feel “gratitude” in our everyday life.  We are so busy with the challenges and issues of the day, whether they are personal, professional or political, that we miss seeing all the “blessings” that should “stir” our “gratitude.”  The world really needs us and our “virtues” to come to life everyday, now maybe more than ever!  Taking Cicero’s quote to heart, let us focus on “gratitude” as our first step in living our “virtues” every day!

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